Turkish Warships Stay Put, ExxonMobil Rig Arrives Off Cyprus

The ship, Ocean Investigator is docked at Cyprus' largest port of Limassol in the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, Wednesday, March 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Turkish warships which blocked an Italian energy company ship from reaching Cypriot waters where it is licensed to look for oil and gas didn’t move on March 14 to keep American oil giant ExxonMobil from heading toward an area where it will drill.

The ExxonMobil survey ship, Ocean Investigator, scheduled to carry out hydrocarbon explorations in block 10 of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the morning at the port of Limassol after sailing from the Greek port of Lavrio, the Cyprus Mail reported.

A second vessel, the Med Surveyor, was due to reach Limassol on March 15 and will join the other ship in conducting surveys in order to establish the best drilling targets. ExxonMobil plans to carry out exploratory drilling in the second half of this year, in late summer or autumn.

Port Director Panayiotis Agathocleous told the paper that the Ocean Investigator has docked at a quay located in the management area of DP World Limassol and is expected to load equipment, which will be transported to block 10 for its scheduled operations.

The vessel will remain at the Limassol port until March 24, he said, but it might depart earlier. This, Agathocleous said, will depend on the progress of operations.

DP World has set up facilities to serve the hydrocarbon sector and the research work to be done, Agathocleous said, and the services will be provided from the port of Limassol.

“The vessels will use the Limassol port to connect the sea space with land. In terms of drilling, this will be considered at a later stage after the exploratory work is over,” he said.

Turkey so far hasn’t made any claims on Block 10. Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, ousted by President Donald Trump, was ExxonMobil’s CEO and had gone to Turkey to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other officials recently.

But Turkey, which is demanding that a share of any potentially lucrative findings be shared with Turkish-Cypriots who have unlawfully occupied the northern third of the island since a 1974 invasion, said it would block any foreign vessels from drilling off the island.

Ships from the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet, however, are in the area conducting joint exercises with Israel, which has a stake in Cyprus’ energy hopes. US Ambassador Kathleen Doherty said she doesn’t think Turkey will try to block the US company’s vessels though.